Pew: Americans Don't Fully Trust High Tech Execs

High tech execs have been subject to a barrage of criticism from the legislators--including this week--over its size, how it got that way, and how that power is being used relative to competitors and the public that increasingly relies on technology for the internet of (every)thing, but both apparently have image issues with the public.

A majority of High Tech execs act unethically at least some of the time, or at least that is the perception of over 10,000 people who participated in a survey for Pew Research Center. It is unclear to what extent either the Hill attacks or the various breaches, data sharing missteps and other issues, have contributed to that perception.

In fact, members of Congress and tech leaders are rated lower in empathy, transparency and ethics than others including military, the police and school principal.

According to a new report, “Why Americans Don’t Fully Trust Many Who Hold Positions of Power and Responsibility,” 77% of respondents said that tech leaders act unethically all or some of the time, second only in apparent lack of trust to members of Congress, about whom 81% said that (see chart).

Somewhat surprisingly perhaps, religious leaders came in third at 69%, followed by journalists at 66%.

Among those who said those powerful figures were unethical all or most of the time, members of Congress topped that category as well at 17%, with journalists second at 15% and tech leaders third at 12% (10% said that about religious leaders).

Perhaps an unsurprising finding given the incessant attacks by President Donald Trump and some of his Republican Hill allies on journalists as liars and purveyors of fake news, there is a definite political split driving the responses about journalists.

According to Pew, only 31% of those who identified themselves as Republicans and Republican "leaners" said they believed journalists fairly cover all sides of an issue at least some of the time, while 74% of Democrats "leaners" said so, a 43 percentage-point gap.

There is no similar political disagreement when it comes to their view of tech execs. "Republicans and Democrats generally mirrored the views of the public as a whole," Pew said.

The survey was conducted Nov. 27-Dec. 10, 2018, among U.S. adults. The margin of error is plus or minus three percentage points. 

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.